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chemistry can blend natural contradictions. In
all such unnatural mixtures the world will still
be uppermost, and religion will disdain to coa-
lesce with its antipathy.

Let me' not be suspected of intending to insi-
nuate that religion encourages men to fly from
society, and hide themselves in solitudes ; to re-
nounce the generous and important duties of
active life for the visionary, cold, and fruitless
virtues of an hermitage or a cloister. No: the
mischief arises not from our living in the world,
but from the world living in us ; occupying our
hearts, and monopolizing our affections. Action
is the life of virtue ; and the world is the theatre
of action. Perhaps some of the most perfect
patterns of human conduct may be found in the
most public stations, and among the busiest or-
ders of mankind. It is, indeed, a scene of trial,
but the glory of the triumph is proportioned
to the peril of the conflict A sense of danger
quickens circumspection, and makes virtue
more vigilant Lot, perhaps, is not the only
character, who maintained his integrity in a
great city, proverbially wicked, and forfeited it
in the bosom of retirement

It has been said that worldly ^ood sovtcf
people are a greater credit to their profession,
by exhibiting more cheerfulness, gaycty, and
happiness, than are visible in serious Christianau
If this assertion be true, which I vtrj much
suspect, is it not probable that the apparent
ease and gayety of the former may be derived
from the same source of consolation which Mrs.
Quickly recommends to Falstaff, in Shaks-
peare*s admirable picture of the death-bed scene
of that witty profligate? *He wished for com
fort, quoth mine hostess, and began to talk of
God ; now I, to comfort him, begged hira h«
should not think of God ; it was time eaouffb U
trouble himself with these things.* Do not ma
ny deceive themselves by drawing water fron
these dry wells of comfort 7 and patch up a pro
carious and imperfect happiness in thb vroric,
by diverting their attention from the concern/
of the next.

Another obstruction to the growth of piety,
is that unhappy prejudice which even good kind
of people too oflen entertain against Uioee who
diner from them in opinion. Every man whc
is sincerely in earnest to advance the interostv

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ot religion, will have acquired sach a degree of
candour, as to become indifferent by whom good
IB done, or who has the reputation of doing it,
provided it be actually done. He will be anxi-
ous to increase the stock of human virtue and
of happiness by every possible means. He will
whet and sharpen every instrument of goodness,
though it be not cast in his own mould, or
fashioned after his own pattern. He will never
consider whether the form suits his own parti-
cular taste, but whether the instrument itself
be calculated to accomplish tho work of his

I shall conclude these Isoee and immethodi-
" >rt address to
1 a decent pro-
brmal attend-
diligent dis-
Ity. Believe,
pie who lower
3. The open-
to God and
I Lhs they mean

I les they deny,

and to accomplish the ^ery prediction they affect
to disbelieve. But you, like an inadequate and
faithless prop, overturn the edifice which you
pretend to support — When an acute and keen-
eyed infidel measures your lives with the rule
by which you profess to walk, he finds so little
analogy between them, the copy is so unlike the
pattern, that this inconsistency of your*8 is the
pass through which his most dangerous attack
IS made. And I must confess, that, of all the
arguments, which the malignant industry of in-
fidelity has been able to muster, the negligent
conduct of professing Christians seems to me to
be the only one which is really capable of stag-
goring a man of sense. — He hears of a spiritual
and self denying religion ; he reads the beati-
tudes ; he observes that the grand artillery of
the gospel is planted against pride and sensu-
ality. He then turns to the transcript of this
perfect original ; to the lives which pretend to
be fashioned by it There he sees, with tri-
amphant derision that pride, self-love, luxury,
self-sufficiency, unbounded personal expense,
and an inordinate appetite for pleasure, are re-
putable vices in the eyes of man v of those who
acknowledge the truth of the Christian doctrines.
Ho weighs that meekness to which a blessing
is promised, with that arrogance which is too
eommon to be very dishonourable. He com-
pares that non-conformity to the world, which
the Bible make* the criterion of a believer, with
that rai^e for amusement which is not consider-
ed as disreputable in a Christian. He opposes
the self-denying and lowly character of the Au-
thor of our faith with the seBsnal practices of
his followers. He finds little resemblance be*
tween the restraints prescribed, and the gratifi-
cations indulged in. What conclusions must a
speculative reasoning sceptic draw from such
premises 7 Is it any wonder that such phrases
as * a broken spirit,* a * contrite heart,* 'poverty
of spirit,* *■ refraining the soul,* * keeping it low,*
and * casting down high imaginations,* should
be to the unbeliever * foolishness,* when such
hamiliatingdoctrines are a * stumbling block* to
professing Christians ; to Christiana who cannot
Vou I. S

cordially relish a religion which professedly
tells them it was sent to stain the pride of hu
man glory, and * to exclude boasting ?*

But. though the pissive and self-denying vir-
tues are not high m the esteem of mere good
sort of people, yet they are peculiarly the evan
^lical virtues. The world extols brilliant ac-
tions ; the Grospel enjoins good habits and right
motives: it seldom inculcates those splendid
deeds which make heroes, or teaches those lofly
sentiments which constitute philosophers; but
it enjoins the harder task of renouncing self, of
living uncorrupted in the world, of subduing
besettmg sins, and of * not thinking of ourselves
more highly than we ought* The ac^isUiem
of glory was the precept of other religions, the
contempt of it is the perfection of Christianity.

Let us then be consistent, and we shall never
be contemptible, even in the eyes of our ene-
mies. Let not the unbeliever say that we have
one set of opinions for our theory, and another
for our practice, that to the vulgar

We show the rough and thorn v way to heav*n,
While we the primrose path of dalliance tread.

Would it not become the character of a man
of sense, of which consistency is a most une>
quivocal proof, to choose some rule and abide by
it? An extempore Christian is a ridiculous
character. Fixed principles, if they be reaUy
principles of the heiMrt, and not merely opinions
of the understanding, will be followed by a con-
sistent course of action ; while indecision of
spirit will produce instability of conduct. If
there be a model which we 'profess to admire,
let us square our lives hv it If either the Ko-
ran of Mahomet, or the Revelations of Zoroaster,
be a perfect guide, let us follow one of thorn. If
either Epicurus, Zeno, or Confucius, be the pe*
culiar object of our veneration and respect, let
us avowedly fashion our conduct by the dictates
of their philosophy ; and then, though we may
be wrong, we shall not be absurd ; we may be
erroneous, but we shall not be inconsistent ; but
if the Bible be in truth the word of Grod, as we
profess to believe, we need look no farther for a
consummate pattern. * If the Lord be Grod, let
us follow Him.* If Christ he a sacrifice for sin ;
let Him be also to us the example of an holy

But I am willing to flatter myself that the
moral and intellectual scene about us begins to
brighten. I indulge myself in moments of the
most enthusiastic and delightful vision, that
thinffs are beginning gradually to lead to the
fulfilment of that promise, that * all the king-
doms of the earth shall become the kingdoms of
our God and of his Christ* I take encourage-
ment that that glorious prophecy, that * of the
increase of his government there shall be no
end,* seems to be gradually accomplishing ; and
in no instance more, perhaps, than in the noble
attempt about to be made for the abolition of
the African slave-trade.' For what event can
human wisdom foresee more likely to contri-
bute to • give the Son the heathen for his in-
heritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth
for his possession,* than the success of such an

* This interesting question was then beg ianiof to bt
agitated in parUament

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enterpriee wMch will restore the lastre of the
British name, and cut off at a single stroke as
large and disgraceful a portion of national guilt
as ever impaired the virtue or dishonoured the
councils of a Christian country.

A good spirit seems to be at work. A catho-
lic temper is diffusing itself among all sects and
parties : an enlightened candour, and a liberal
toleration, were never more prevalent ; good men
combat each others opinions with less rancour,
and better manners;* they hate each other
less for those points in which they disagree,
and love each other more for those points in
which they join issue than they formerly did.
We have many public encoura^ments ; we have
a pious king; a wise and virtuous minister;
very many respectable, and not a few serious
clergy. Their number I am willing to hope is
daily increasing. Among these some of the
first in dignity are the most exemplary in con-
duct An increasing desire to instruct the poor,
to inform the i^^norant, and to reclaim the vi.
cious, is spreading among us. The late royal
proclamation affords an honourable sanction to
virtuous endeavours, and lends nerves and si-
news to the otherwise feeble exertions of in-
dividuals, by enforcing laws wisely planned,
but hitherto feebly executed. In short, there is a
good hope that we shall more and more become
* that happy people who have the Lord for their
Gk>d :* that as prosperity is already within our
walls, peace and virtue ma^ abidein our dwellings.

But vain will be all endeavours after partial
and subordinate amendment. Reformation miut
begin with the great, or it will never be effec-
tual. Their example is the fountain whence
the vulgar draw their habits, actions, and cha-
racters. To expect to reform the poor while
the opulent are corrupt is to throw odours into
the stream while the springs are poisoned.

If, therefore, the rich and great will not,
from a liberal spirit of doin^ right, and from a
christian spirit of fearing God, altotain from those
offences, for which the poor are to suffer fines
and imprisonments, effectual good cannot be
done. It will signify little to lay penalties on
the horses of the drover, or the wagon of the
husbandman, while the chariot wheels of the
great roll with incessant motion ; and while the
sacred day on which the sons of industry are
commanded by royal proclamation to desist from
travelling, is for that very reason selected for

* This was written before tbe French revolution 1 1

the journeys of the great, and preferred because
the road is incumbered with fewer interruptions
But will it not strike every well-meaning Sun
day traveller with a generous remorse, when he
reflects that he owes the accommodation of an
unobstructed road to the very obedience which
is paid by others to that divine and human law
which he is in the very act of violating ?

Will not the common people think it a liiUe
inequitable that they are abridged of the diver
sions of the public house and the gaming yard
on Sunday evening, when they shall hear that
many houses of the first nobility are on that
evening crowded with company, and such
amusements carried on as are prohibited by hO'
man laws even on common days 7 As imitation,
and a desire of being in the fashion, govern the
lower orders of mankind, it is to be reared that
they will not think reformation reputable, while
they see it recommended only, and not practised^
by their superiors. A precept counteracted by
an example, is worse than fruitless ; it is ridicu-
lous ; and the common people will be tempted to
set an inferior value on goodness, when they
find it is only expected from the lower ranks.
They cannot surely but smile at the disinterest,
edness of their superiors, who, while they seem
anxiously concerned to save others, are so little
solicitous about their own state. The ambitious
vulgar will hardly relish a salvation which is
only intended for plebians ; nor will they be apt
to entertain very exalted notions of that pro
mised future reward, the road to which they
perceive their betters arc so much more earnest
to point out to themt than to walk in themselves.

It was not by inflicting pains and penalties
that Christianity first made its way into the
world : the divine truths it inculcated received
irresistible confirmation from the uvxs, prac-
tices, and EXAMPLES of its venerable professors.
These were arguments which no popular pre-
judice could resist, no Jewish logic refute, and
no Pagan persecution discredit Had the pri-
mitive Christians only prai$ed and promulgated
the most perfect religion the world ever saw, it
would have produced but very slender effects on
the faith and manners of the people. The asto.
nishing consequences which followed the pure
doctrines of the Gospel, would never have been
produced, if the jealous and inqusitive eye of
malice could have detected that the DOCTRmcs
the Christians recommended had not been illus-
trated by the UVES they led.


The public favour having already brought
this little essay to another edition, the author
has been sedulous to discover any particular ob-
jections that have been made to it Since the
preceding sheets were printed off^, it has been
suggested by some very respectable persons who
have honoured this slight performance with their
notice, that it inculcates a too rigid austerity,
and carries the point of observing Sunday much
too far ; that it takes away all the usual occu-
pations of the day, without substituting any
others in their stead ; and that it only pulls down

a wrong system, without so much as attempting
to build up a right one. To these observations
the author begs leave to repl^, that whilst anU
madverting on error, the insisting on obvious
duty was purposely omitted. To tell peopk what
they already know to be right, was less the in-
tention of this address, than to obsenre upon
practices which long habit had (frevented them
from perceiving to be wrong. Sensible and well-
meaning persons can hardly be at a loss on a
subject which has exhausted precept and wea.
.ried exhortation. To have expatiated on it

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wouid oaly haTO beer, to repeat what is already
known and acknowledged. to be right, even by
those whom the harry of engagements will not
allow to take breath one day in a week, that they
may run the race of pleasure with more alacrity
on the other six. Bat probaUy it is not the du-
ties, but the amaseroents appropriated to the day
about which the inquiry is made. It will, per-
haps, be iband, that the intervals of a Sunday
regularly devoted to all its reasonable and ob-
vious employments, are not likely to be so very
tedious, but that they might be easily and plea-
santly filled up by checrfnl, innocent, ana in-
structive conversation. Human delights would
be very circumscribed indeed, if the practices
here noticed as erroneous, included the whole
circle of enjoyments. In addition to the appro-
priate pleasures of devotion, are the pleasures
of retirement, the pleasures of friendship, the
pleasures of intellect, and the pleasures of be-
ne6cenoe, to be estimated as nothing 7

There will not be found, perhaps, a single
person who shall honour these pages with a pe-
rosai, who has not been repeatedly told, with an
mir of imposing rravity, by those who produce
cards on a Sunday evening, that it i$ better to
flay than to talk Bcandol. — Before this pithy
axiom was invented, it was not perhaps suspect-
ed that Sunday ^ming would ever be adduced
■s an argument m favour of morals. Without
entering into the comparative excellence of these
two occupations, or presumin^^ to determine
which has a claim to pre-eminence of piety,
may we not venture to be thankful that these
mltematives do not seem to empty the whole
stock of human resource ; bat that something
will still be lefl to occupy and to interest those
who adopt neither the one nor the other 7

People in the gay and elegant scenes of life
are perpetually complaining that an extensive
acquaintance, and the necessity of being con-
stantly engaged in large circles and mixed as-
semblies, leaves them little leisure for family
enjoyment, select conversation, and domestic
delights. Others, with no less earnestness, la-
ment that the hurry of public stotions, and the
necessary demands of active life, allow them no
time for any but frivolous reading. Now the
recorrence of one Sunday in every week seems
to hold oat an invitinsr remedy ror both these
evils. The sweet ana delightful pleasures of

family society mi^ht then be oninterruptedly
enjoyed, by the habitual exclusion of trifling and
idle visiters, who do not come to see their friends
but to ^t rid of themselves. Persons of fashion
living m the same house, and connected by the
closest ties, whom business and pleasure keep a
sunder during the greatest part of the week, wouid
then have an opportunity of spending a litUetime
together, and of cultivating that friendship for
each other, that affection for their children, and
that intercourse with their Maker, to which the
present manners are not very favourable. To
the other setof oomplainers, those who can find
no time to read, this interval naturally presente
itself; and it so happens, that some of the most
enlightened men the world ever saw, have, not
unfVequently, devoted their rare talente to sub-
jecte peculiarly suited to tbb day ; and that not
merely in the didactic form of sermons, which
men of the world a£fect to disdain, but in every
alluring shape which human ingenuity could
assume. II can be fortunately prmiuced among
a thousand other instances, that the deepest
metophysician,* the greatest astronomer, the
subHmest poet, the acutest reasoner, the politest
writer, the most consummate philosopher, and
the profoundest investigator of nature, which
this, or perhaps any country has produced, have
all written on such subjecte as are analogous to
the business of the Lord's day. Such authors
as these, even wits, philosophers, and men of
the world, most acknowledge that it is not
bigotry to read, nor enthusiasm to commend.
Of this illustrious group only (me was a clergy
man, which to a certain olass of readme wiU be
a strong recommendation ; though it is a little
hard that the fastidiousness of modern taste
should undervalue the learned and pious labours
of divines, only because they are profe$9umaL —
In every other function, a man's compositions
are not the less esteemed because they peculi-
arly belong to his more immediate business.
Blackstone's opinions in jurisprudence are in
high reputetion, though he was a lawyer ; Sy-
denham is still consulted as oracular in fevers,
m spite of his having been a physician ; and the
Commentaries of Cosar are of esteblished au-
thority in military operations, notwithstanding
he was a soldier.

• Locke, Newton, Milton; Batlcr, Addison, Baeon,



Tliere was never found
T discipline, which did so

in any age of the world, either philosophy, or sect, or religion, or
highly exalt the public good as the Christian faith. — LoraBaeon,



T^ general design of these pages is to offer
some cursory remarks, on the present state of
religion amongag^eat part of the polite and the
frshionable ; not only among that description of
persons who, whether from disbelief or whatever
^her cause, avowedly neglect the duties of

Christianity ; but among that more decent class
also, who, while they acknowledge their belief of
ite truth by a public profession, and are not inat-
tentive to any of ite forms, yet exhibit little of
ite spirit in their general temper and conduct
It is designed to show that Christianity, like its
Divine Author, is not only denied by those who
in so many words disown their submission tc

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lis authority, but is betrayed by the still more
treacherous disciple, even while he cries, HaU^
Master I

For this visible declension of piety various
reasons have been assigned, some of which how-
ever do not seem fully adequate to the effects
ascribed to them. The author of a late popular
pamphlet* has accounted fbr the increased pro-
fligacy of the common people^ by ascribing it,
very justly, to the increased dissoluteness of
their superiors. And who will deny what he
farther affirms — that the general conduct of high
and low receives a deep tincture of depravity
from the growing neglect of public worship ?
So far I most cordi^Iy agree with the noble
author. Nothing can be more obvious than that
the disuse of public worship is naturally follow-
ed by a neglect of all religious duties. Energies,
which are not called out into action, almost ne-
cessarily die in the mind. The soul, no less
than the body, requires its stated repairs, and
regular renovations. And from the sluggish
and procrastinating spirit of man, that religious
duty to which no nzed time b assigned, is sel-
dom, it is to be feared, performed at all.t

I must, however, take leave to dissent from
the opinion of the noble author, that the too
common desertion of persons of rank from the
service of the establishment is occasioned in
general, as he intimates, by their disapprobation
of the Liturgy ; as it may more probably be sup-
posed, that the far greater part of them are de-
terred from going to church by motives widely
removed from speculative objections and con-
scientious scruples.

It would be quite foreign to my present pur-
pose to enter upon the question of the superior
utility of a form of prayer for public worship.
Most sincerely attached to the establishment
myself, not, as far as I am able to judge, from
prejudice, but from a fixed and setUed convic-
tion. I regard its institution with a veneration
at once affectionate and rational. Never need a
Christian, except when his own heart is strange-
ly indisposed, fail to derive benefit from its or-
(unances, and he may bless the overruling pro-
vidence of God, that, m this instance, the natural
variableness and inconstancy of human opinion
is, dM it were fixed, and settled, and hedged in,
by a stated service so pure, so evan^eli<^, and
which is enriched by such a large mfusion of
sacred Scripture.

If so many among us contemn the service as
having been, individually, to U9 fruitless and un-
profitable, let us inquire whether the blessing
may not be withheld because we are not fervent
in asking it If we do not find a suitable hu-
miliation in the Confession, a becoming earnest-
ness in the Pentiums, a congenial joy in the
Adoration, a corresponding gratitude in the
ITurnksgivings, it is because our hearts do not
accompany our words ; it is because we rest in
* t)ie fjrm of godliness,' and are contented tore-
main destitute of its * power.* If we are not
duly interested when the select portions of Scrip-
ture are read to us, it is because we do not as

* Hinti to an Association for preventinf Vice and Im*
norelity. written by a nobleman of the tugbest rank.

% On this subject soe Dr. Johnson's Life of Milton

* new born babes desire the sincere milk of tht
word, that we may grow thereby.'

Perhaps there has not been since the age of
the Apbstles, a church upon earth in which the
public worship was so solemn and so cheerful ;
so simple, yet so sublime ; so full of fervour, at
tJtSb same time so free from enthusiasm ; so rich
in the gold of Christian antiquity, yet so asto
nishinfly exempt from ito dross. That it has
imperSctions we do not deny, but what are they
compared with ite general excellence 7 They
are as the spote on the sun's disk, which a Fharp
observer may detect, but which neither diminish
the warmth, nor obscure the brightness.

But if those imperfections which are insepa-
rable from all human institutions, are to be al-
leged as reasons for abstaining to attend on the

Online LibraryHannah MoreThe complete works of Hannah More → online text (page 63 of 135)